Torts I, Pages 220–222

Stachniewicz v. Mar-Cam Corp.

Supreme Court of Oregon, 1971

Facts:

Plaintiff was at a table in a defendant's bar. Sitting next to him was a booth of intoxicated people who were harassing plaintiff's group. A member of plaintiff's group complained to the bartender, who warned plaintiff's fried to not start trouble with the other guys. Shortly afterwards, the group from the booth started a fight with plaintiff's group. Plaintiff sustained injuries in the brawl resulting in retrograde amnesia for him. The booth people had been drinking for approximately two and a half hours beforehand. Oregon statute prohibits serving alcoholic liquor to visibly intoxicated persons. Oregon regulation also prohibits licensees from allowing loud, disorderly, intoxicated, or abusive persons to remain on their premises.

Procedural History:

Jury returned a verdict for the defendant.

Issue:

Does a violation of statue or regulation constitute negligence?

Rule:

A violation of a statute or regulation constitutes negligence as a matter of law when the violation results in injury to a member of the class of persons intended to be protected by the legislation and when the harm is of the kind which the statute or regulation was enacted to prevent.

Reasoning:

  • When a legislative body prohibits conduct likely to cause harm based off their community's experience, the court accepts the formulation.

  • It is neigh impossible to prove damages resulted from violation of the statute. As one already has to be drunk for it to apply, who can say what level of drunkenness was required for them to cause harm?

  • The regulation has a clear, sound public policy rationale. Innocent patrons may get hurt, as plaintiff did here. There is then no reason for it to not be negligence.

Holding:

Yes, a violation of a statute or regulation constitutes negligence when the violation results in harm to a person intended to be protected by the legislation and in a way it was intended to prevent. Trial court's judgment reversed; case remanded for a new trial.

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